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Hinata and the Kids
It’s been a week since Fritz and Hinata reached Ingracia.
Even considering that they hitched a ride on a pa.s.sing carriage, it still took time. But no: for Hinata, impatience was banned.
Using a magic circle would have been faster but would not have allowed them to grasp the state of Ingracia as a trip would have.
Fritz and Hinata decided to disguise themselves as an adventurer’s daughter and a normal, spirited youth.
Hinata had equipment left over from my adventuring days, so she used that. Fritz purchased some from a travelling peddler.
But they had no qualms about their equipment. Demon Lord Rimuru had sent them modified Spirit Bracelets that could transform into full armament set upon command.
Though the quality of transformed gear did suffer as a result, it was still unique cla.s.sed. Why did the Demon Lord do this she did not know, but she did appreciate it.
So even should the worst come to be, they would not need to rely on what they carry, and used it rather for disguise.
And thus they deigned these shabby clothes and ventured onward.
Oh, and they snuck into the kingdom using fake ids.
Currently Hinata is staying at a cheap inn in the outskirts of town.
For a whole week Hinata has not left her room. She’s been using spirit familiars to scout the happenings of that city.
Fritz, however, is hanging around the Academy. With his own eyes and ears does he study the city.
Trying to figure out a way into the academy or if some merchant needs protection.
The Academy is a fortress, guests are not permitted.
Except, that is, entrance into Academy’s Library is open to public, but it is undoubtedly being supervised by Yuuki.
Hinata is trying to find a way in without alerting Yuuki of her presence.
During his investigation Fritz came to know a number of food distributors employed by the Academy and was able to convince them to be a merchant selling food.
The thing is, the Academy has a lot of students.
They need a lot of merchants and workers just to prepare a single meal for all the students.
Thus, Fritz and Hinata were able to secure work inside the Academy helping around the kitchen.
And so another week pa.s.sed. As their work continued they began investigating.
They had to move during the morning deliveries. Though the morning meals were simple they still required extensive preparation.
After observing the workplace for a week they found the best time to move.
If they were to deliver the meals while it was still dark surely they could snoop around and leave unseen.
Over the course of the week they more or less figured out the layout of the academy.
Using spirit familiars they found a source of strong light spirit energy.
And just as Rimuru has said, there was a child blessed by the light spirit.
Hinata heard the full story at the banquet. Though she once dismissed his words as utter nonsense she now felt a duty to protect these younglings.
In a way a they were her disciples too.
(Clown’s note: the reason being that they are taught in a school where she was taught in, so it’s like they are her undercla.s.smen [kouhai], but a bit more than that, because this academy is closer to a martial arts dojo. So as someone who’s
“graduated” the academy she now feels responsible for them)
But she was still not satisfied with his explanation for why they were summoned.
Think about it: Yuuki told Rimuru that Hinata summoned them while attempting to summon a real hero.
But leaving the difficulty and need for raising a new hero aside, neither Hinata nor the Church summoned the children.
In other words, Yuuki must have done it.
If that’s the case, why did he do it? Did he fail at summoning and got them? Or did he intend to summon them to begin with?
That Hinata could not understand.
Both Hinata and Rimuru had figured out during their confrontation that Yuuki was trying to pin the guilt for the summoning on Hinata.
So that question aside, the more important one still remained: why?
Perhaps he merely took advantage of a failed summoning.
But she felt that she had to know the reason for why he did it. And who said that there were only 5 children whom he summoned? And what about adults?
All these thoughts swirled inside her head causing her great anxiety.
But she decided to dismiss them all and focus on creating a plan to rescue the children.
Thus came that fateful day.
Fritz finished the preparations and Hinata went off to deliver the provisions to the Academy.
After working thus for a week Hinata has gotten rather friendly with the grannies working there.
But that thought led her to recall the fact that her current appearance is obscured by a magic item; she instead looks like an average red haired girl.
So the grannies are not talking to her, but to this red haired appearance of her. This thought made her feel strangely lonely.
But it was not the time for such sentimentalities.
Deliver the goods, wait for an opportunity, and proceed with Fritz to the source of that light. Hinata and Fritz would move as planned.
They would aim for that moment when the merchants deliver the food and begin returning home.
She would create an illusion of herself leaving the premises and instead head for the children. Thus, the red girl would chat her way out instead of Hinata.
The magic would only work up until she would leave the premises, but that much time should be enough.
Today she merely planned to talk to the children and confirm that they were not in any immediate danger.
Ten minutes should be plenty to see how they are doing, and that would be the first step.
Of course, should things turn sour she was fully ready to blast her way out.
In that case, she would never again talk with those grannies…
And that thought did bother her, but it did not sway her resolve.
Fritz was busy with work so she decided to head off alone.
Straight for that light.
She used an invisibility spell and suppressed her presence to its utmost limits to remain undetected.
Up to the third floor, without making a single sound.
Her basic parameters strengthened by magic, she moved as a superwoman. Unlocked a door with magic, and slipped in without as much as a whisper.
And found herself in a dimly lit cla.s.sroom.
Light barely entered it: obvious, considering that it was still 6 am.
But it was nonetheless a bizarre room. There were few desks–only four.
There was a door in the back, connecting to another cla.s.sroom.
There were some doors out in the hall, but could they really be called doors? They were locked not with keys but with magic, so she could not open them.
It was a strange design. This could hardly be called a normal cla.s.sroom.
Pondering it all for a second, she instead turned and headed for the room emitting that light. Time was of essence, so she had to press forward.
Hinata opened the door and entered.
A dining table was being prepared; so she felt life inside the room.
Hinata carefully proceeded onward.
There was something akin a bedroom part.i.tioned off.
Four futon lay there; so that’s where the kids slept.
And then, Hinata unconsciously took a step back>
Had she not done so, she would have been hit by a wooden sword.
「Wow… you dodged that. Great! Thief?」
A voice came from a bossy child who seem to have just risen.
A weak-spirited j.a.panese boy, a European pretty boy.
And a blond pretty girl.
「Why’d you come? There’s nothing to steal here?」
「Onee-chan, who are you?」
The j.a.panese boy and the blond girl asked Hinata.
The European child stood strong as if protecting the other kids. The bossy kid stood in the back.
Hinata let out a sigh and raised both hands showing she had no desire to fight.
「The one with the wooden sword is Misaki Kenya, kun?
And there’s no need to be so tense, Gale-kun」
She called out.
Just as Rimuru had described them. The five children… except the black haired Chloe O’Bell; she seems to be missing.
「You know us?」
The weak looking boy, Sekiguchi Ryota asked.
「Yeah. I heard about you from Rimuru.
Misaki Kenya, Sekiguchi Ryota, Gale Gibson, Alise Rondo, right?
And one more, Chloe O’Bell… whom I don’t see here.
Just as Rimuru had said.
My name is Sakiguchi Hinata.
You may have heard some bad things about me, but I am not here to endanger you.
I came to chat, but it seems we’re out of time.
It would be great if I could get you to trust me…」
Kenya sat in a chair, his wooden sword in hand.
Without a single change in his demeanor,
「Ah, so you’re Rimuru-sensei’s acquaintance」
He said, with a relieved smile on his face.
「But isn’t Hinata Sakaguchi a name of a villain!」
「Right, the person who summoned us, had no use for us, and tried to kill us! And we’re only here because Yuuki-oniichan and Rimuru-sensei saved us」
「But she doesn’t seem like an enemy. It’s alright to trust her… no?」
While saying various things, the children sat in chairs.
Seems like being Rimuru’s acquaintance earned her some trust.
But she did not for a second confuse it with trust for her; the stories they heard about her must have made her sound like the Satan himself.
That made her frown a bit, but at least it did not cause them to attack her outright.
In the first place, those were nothing but groundless accusations.
Sadly, there was no time to explain. So she figured she’ll go with the flow and give them the rundown of the situation.
「Yeah, thanks for trusting me.
I’ve met with Rimuru and heard of your from him.
I don’t have the time for a full explanation… in short, I want to take you to Rimuru’s place.
We’ll explain everything there」
「Eh? Rimuru-sensei’s place? I want to go!」
「But won’t the church come after us… I do want to go though…」
Conversation filled the room.
「The church will not pose a problem…
I want you to listen without yelling. I am the Church’s Guard Captain Hinata.
Well, I was.
The one you spoke of earlier, the “Hinata who summoned us” is me.
But, to get to the point, I did not summon you.
Please believe me.
And that too will be explained in due time」
「Huh? But if the church was not responsible, who was, then?
Why are we trapped in here?」
「Right… If you think about it, a stalker?」
「But this Onee-chan could be lying, you know!」
Hinata narrowed her eyes observing the children.
As she had expected, she’ll have to struggle to convince them.
She had not the time to explain enough to convince them. So if this was not enough, she would have to return again.
Before she met Rimuru she would have just put them under protection and taken them from here by force.
Hinata was the kind of person who would choose the shortest and safest path and logically put that plan into motion.
But now? Here she is trying to sway the hearts of a bunch of children.
How weak I have become, she thought.
Showing emotion would surely increase the chance of failure–that she understood.
And if the kids show hostility, then she would have failed. She would have to come again and again while avoiding detection.
But Hinata nonetheless chose to reveal her ident.i.ty to them.
Forcing your thoughts on others is mere self-satisfaction.
Hinata now chose the longest path, and found that fact hilarious. But she did not regret this change.
That one thing about her did not change: she refused to regret.
「It’s alright. We can trust her.
My pal, Hikaru says so!」
「Yeah! I also think so. I mean, this Onee-chan is loved by the spirits!」
「Yeah, true. I also believe her」
「In that case, it’s decided. Let’s go. But we should hurry. Can we go like this?」
Hinata opened her eyes wide looking at the children.
She did not expect for it to be this easy. Going now would also be contrary to the plan.
「I appreciate the sentiment, but we can’t leave just yet.
Most importantly…where’s the fifth–Chloe?」
「Onee-chan… who are you talking about?」
「We don’t know anyone by that name?」
What? She thought they were joking, but their eyes were serious.
There was no hint of lie in their words. They are telling the truth.
That’s when Fritz came in.
They had too little time, there was no time to hesitate.
They have to leave now or plan it for another day.
If they were to wait, there would be new risks. Besides, the kids seem to be ready for travel, so this looks like a good opportunity.
But Chloe is not with them, and that’s a problem.
And while Hinata was thus deliberating,
「There’s nothing to fret about, you know? I mean, I can’t let you take them」
A lad calls out to Hinata with a smile.
Fritz jumped back drawing his sword.
Black hair and black eyes. They were familiar with this man. And he just snuck up on a Fritz.
And not just Fritz; neither the kids nor Hinata noticed him approaching.
He was no ordinary man.
There, before the, stood the Freedom a.s.sociation Master.
「Seems like I was only able to reel in two fish with this bait (children).
Well, I guess it’s fine. Guard Captain Hinata, you are no small fry.
I guess the bait served its purpose」
Yuuki said with a smile full of absolute bliss, causing Hinata to fear.
She felt cold sweat forming on her back and her senses screamed danger.
Bracing herself, she made her resolve.
“The smiling boy of her memories…”
What load of nonsense.
Her hair stood on its ends faced with such evil.
He’s still smiling and he appears calm.
But what she fears is his presence.
This kind of evil she just had to immediately vanquish.
Steeling her resolve, she confronted Yuuki!